Hello friends!

It has been great to hear from many of you and how you are all doing without me. Luckily, it seems most have been able to get on with their lives, and I’m glad to hear it. I have been having a very fun time, most especially over these last few weekends, and now I’ve been catching up on some much needed sleep. Here’s what has been going on since last time I emailed.

The weekend before last (the penultimate weekend, I suppose), I went on my first excursion with my Spanish Culture and Civilization class, and we took a bus Friday morning for 6 hours down to Granada, where we checked into our hotel and then went immediately over to the Royal Chapel, and we got to see the mausoleum, complete with coffins and everything, of Isabel and Fernando, los Reyes Catolicos. Next day we hit la Alhambra, this small town on top a huge hill, and it had all kinds of interesting architecture, fountains, gardens, etc. After lunch, we took the bus for an hour or two to Cordoba, where I went to mass in Spanish at a ginormous church. We walked in right on time at 8pm, and we left after mass at 8:27pm. These Spaniards really know how to pray efficiently. That night I went with some new friends to the Mercado Medieval, which was basically a Renaissance Faire in Spanish. It was very cool, we drank some mead, saw a fire juggler, and witness the forging of a dagger by an actual blacksmith. Next day was filled with more historic sites, including la Mezquita de Cordoba, the famous mosque that has been converted to a church. That place was amazingly huge. I have a feeling we did not make a great impression, as our tour guide was speaking very loudly throughout the tour, despite the many "Por favor, mantenganse silencio [Please keep quiet]" signs. Oh well, we didn’t stay long. Then we came back home and I slept the rest of the night.

In between weekends, we had another week of school, which was fairly uneventful.

The following weekend (this last one) was fun-filled. Thursday, I went to the Casa de Cerveza (even you non-Spanish speakers can probably translate that) with some friends, and then made my way home around 2, which is early for Madrid. However, after getting lost several times, and being propositioned by about 10 different prostitutes, in Spanish (to the tune of "¿Quieres ***** conmigo?" "No gracias" "¿Por que no gracias?" etc), I finally took a cab home for about 3€. The next day was spent resting up for that evening, when I went with about 30 people from my Latin Rhythms dance class to a club that looked like something out of the 70s, very Scarface-esque. We danced merengue, and did the cha-cha, and tried to be stars while Tony tended bar (obscure musical reference). It was a wild and fun night, but very crowded and very hot. I finally made it home around 4am, which is still early for Spain. Saturday was spent hiking, which was fun but not as long or rigorous a hike as I had hoped, as we did not even make it to the top of the mountain. Then Sunday was spent shopping, churching, and finally, heading down to the Hard Rock Cafe at about midnight for the big game. Five friends and I, as well as about half of the Americans in Madrid were in attendance, as I celebrated my first Super Bowl Monday. It was a rousing good time, but made for a tough Monday morning, as the game did not even till 4:30am here, and of course we stayed the whole time and had to walk 45 minutes home as the subway closes at 1:30. And yet, it’s still early for Spain. I have yet to stay out until a time that is generally considered "late" here.

Overall, very good times going on so far. I have yet to see a football (read: soccer) game here, but I’ve heard they’re awesome. Travel plans are slow going, partly because I am trying to conserve funds to backpack through Europe after school is out. I finally booked the cheapest flight I found (240€) to visit Ray for Karnival in Cologne, Germany Feb 19-23. Should be a wild time, especially with the Raymonster.

In the meantime, keep sending those emails, as I love to hear from all of you, and I will send out another email soon with more pictures! Hope everyone is doing well, and you are all constantly in my thoughts are prayers.

Love, Mark
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